Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The End of the Innocence

Anyone who has a blog knows about it: the giddy sensation of writing for an audience. An enormous part of the appeal of blogging is what it gives us: readers – and not just hypothetical ones of the "Reader, I married him" variety – real readers who can provide instant feedback, who are giving up precious moments of their free time, totally voluntarily, just to read our blogs. It’s an intoxicating form of flattery.

My blog audience functions in many ways as a concrete manifestation of the imaginary audience I’ve carried around for years, in those moments of detachment when I examine myself and my life from the point of view of the people I’ve admired, or been rejected by, in the past: Bobby B., the boy I liked off and on throughout elementary school; Carolyn J., the friend who dumped me in grade 11; Mrs. C., the English teacher whom I injudiciously tried to convert by means of some not-very-subtle argumentation in my "reflection journal"; Robin W., a popular artsy girl from my high school. I haven’t seen most of these people for years, though I’ve heard occasional reports from mutual acquaintances of where they are and what they’re doing. For the most part these reports confirm that the passage of time has erased the differences that seemed so crucial in high school: we’re all married and raising children, with the exception of Robin, who according to Google has become a lesbian cabaret dancer.

All of which is to say: I’ve never lived my life without some consciousness of an audience. But I’ve been especially aware, lately, of how much my blogging is shaped by the imagined personality, tastes, and interests of my audience. I realize that even among the handful of people who regularly read this blog, there are significant differences: not all of you are bloggers, not all of you comment, not all of you are from Toronto or California (one visitor, at least, is from Milner Ridge, Manitoba – hi!). Nevertheless, there is that Platonic form of Mommy-Blog Reader that exists in my mind, underlying (and possibly explaining) everything I write. So here, dear reader, are the rash assumptions I’ve been making about who you are:

  • You are in your thirties, married, with a baby between six months and two years old. You may be on a maternity leave, or taking a more permanent break from the workforce, or you might be mommy-tracking it in one way or another; whatever was true in the past, career is no longer the center of your world.
  • The adjustment to mommy-hood has not been an easy one. If you did not experience full-blown PPD, at the very least you found yourself shocked and traumatized by the round-the-clockness of parenting, by how desperately shallow your reserves of patience and sweetness turned out to be. If I mention that I am often tormented by the urge to run away from my baby, you’ll understand.
  • You may or may not be American (in most cases not, as SiteMeter informs me), but if you were, you would vote Democrat.
  • You believe in God, but you didn’t attend church last Sunday morning. The word "Christian" is not one you ordinarily perceive as a compliment.
  • You are a reader. If I write about a Jane Austen novel, I don’t need to attach a spoiler warning. You recognize the source of "Reader, I married him." (Or if you can’t immediately place it, at least it sounds familiar. Hint: the "him" is Mr. Rochester. No spoilers there either.)

Finally, most dauntingly –

  • You are cool. One might even go so far as to say you are crazy and hip.

It is in acknowledgement of that last item that I have replaced the lengthy blurb that once appeared at the top of this blog. I’m not convinced that there is much that is witty – much less crazy or hip – about my new tagline (though anything that makes me think of Donny Osmond is a good thing), but at least it has the advantage of brevity, and it alleviates my increasing level of embarrassment over the naivete of my original blog-description, which I will preserve here for posterity:

The boy formerly known as Bub is three feet tall with blond hair and blue eyes; his interests include blocks, puzzles, and wagon rides. Favourite movie: Baby MacDonald. Favourite author: Dr. Seuss. The Pie is a little bit newer to the world, and her primary field of study is human growth and development, with a special interest in big-brother-little-sister relations. In addition to being mother and chief entertainer of Bub and Pie, I am a fan of reality TV and an avid reader of mama blogs.

Let us take a moment to grieve. Because this minor tweaking of my blog represents a greater sea change, one I’ve noticed as I’ve worked my way through more than a few archives. The early posts are not polished and urbane; they lack topicality and irony; but what they so often have in spades is a refreshing innocence, a willingness to be boring, to be obsessive, to be utterly absorbed in minutiae, as so many of us are, so much of the time. I’m not sure I ever quite had that innocent period, but when I catch myself hesitating to post about how the Bub has taken to announcing "I feel happy" after he pushes his sister over and makes her cry, hesitating because I fear that the cute-yet-disturbing-kid-saying factor on my blog is getting too high, I know that I have it now less than ever.

22 comments:

sunshine scribe said...

I love your blog and your writing. Write what every you want too. Don't worry about cute-kid-sayings quotient. I like blogs that are real and as you defined them, "innocent". Its YOUR blog. You write and they will come.

Anonymous said...

I now find myself surfing over to your site daily to read your posts. I love your writing style, G, you have a gift! Please DO write a novel! And how did you know I didn't go to church on Sunday? That's some scary power you've got.

Adrienne

something blue said...

Your site meter is better than mine. It has much cooler tattoos.

You are a terrific writer. I can relate however I often feel like my old stuff is better than the recent posts. Now that I'm back on the lesbian cabaret world tour I have no time to form any comprehensive thoughts. Ok no, but you know what I mean.

Her Bad Mother said...

Well, you described me perfectly. There may be some doubt about the 'hip' - I have some doubtabout the 'hip,' where hip does not refer to the post-partum expansion of a body part - but otherwise, spot-on.

And may I say, as your audience, that I love your writing. Love. It. Don't go changin'. You know what I like.

And? *My* early posts are rambling, slightly unhinged rants about swaddling.

bubandpie said...

Ade - My spies - they're everywhere!

SS - Now that I think of it, your blog is virtually free of the trying-to-be-cool factor. Probably because you are supremely cool and the rest of us are trying desperately to catch up.

Something Blue - I'll have to catch a show at that cabaret one of these times...

HBM - Ah, the swaddling posts - the archetypal example of innocent blogging.

Geek Daddy said...

Hmmmm.... It would seem I am rather atypical (Duh! Big surprise there!).

In my thirties and married, yes. But my youngest is 3, I'm not on maternity leave nor have I suffered PPD. I am an American, vote Republican generally, am proud to be called a Christian, attend church at least twice a week and sing in the choir. I read voraciously (but, regretfully, have yet to read Jane Austen). And, finally, I am not hip. Nor cool. I am a geek and I am proud of it!

But I suppose as geeks go I could be considered hip and cool. Is there such a thing as Geek Chik? Hmmmm

lildb said...

well, Miss G, you already know what *I* think - I love this post. But then, I love all your posts.

which is, I guess, kind of your point. I mean, not -- um, well, nevermind.

I dig it, is sort of what I'm attempting to wrench outta my mouth, er, fingers.

metro mama said...

I look forward to reading you every day. Keep it coming!

ninepounddictator said...

You described me perfectly too! (Aside from the fact I'm Jewish, so no, I don't feel bad for not going to church!)

This is kind of a interesting post. You know, on Teen Vogue site (I was looking for research! Honest!) all the girls on the chat board guess what each other is like, based on what city they live in. It was pretty funny...

Blogging is like growing up. You learn along the way...

mamatulip said...

To echo Sunshine -- the thing that draws me to so many blogs is their uniqueness and the author's voice. I mean, there is nothing better than sitting down to read a post that makes me feel I'm having a conversation with a good friend. You know? I get that feeling from your blog.

Mommy off the Record said...

First off, might I say that I hope you never hesitate to post a "cute-yet-disturbing-kid-saying" like the one you just did because that is a classic and should be forever preserved on your blog so that years from now you can remind your kids how cute and funny they were.

Second, I will be unoriginal and echo everyone else and say that I love your writing and your blog. I aspire to be the reader you describe. One of the reasons I love to read your posts is that I have to take out a dictionary everytime to look up at least one word. And that is a good thing. Really. Reading your writing makes me a better writer. So thanks for that.

Emily said...

...and we love bubandpie.
Thanks for the i-obsess tip. Love it. Here's mine: Home on the Fringe. Kristen is a superb writer. Checkitout. I think you might get hooked.

sunshine scribe said...

Are you out of your mind?!?! I mean that in a poking in your side teasing kind of way. Cool?!? I am anything but cool. I don't even know how. But you just made my day. My week. Maybe my year :)

Looking forward to meeting the great writer and kind woman behind Bub and Pie later this week!

Mother Bumper said...

I just love a good writer, s'all. And you are an excellent writer. I kinda miss your "tag blurb" so I'm glad you put it in this post as a keepsake. I think your points describe me but I'm not feeling that guilty about church (or am I????). I love your post Bub & Pie and I wish I was going this weekend so I could meet you. Next time, s'alright? :)

Izzy said...

Ha! Your demographic summary is pretty much on-target for me, anyway!

And yes, the innocence of those early blog days. Mine made me cringe so bad I even deleted a few things lol

Christina said...

Dude, I knew it was Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Bronte) right away. But then again, I'm a costu-drama geek. Hell, I even have the soundtrack of the musical to Jane Eyre.

I love checking out your site - you give me great insight into what to expect when I someday have two children! :)

Binkytown said...

Yep! You pegged me too! I love your new tagline. I will allow you to grieve the passing of your old one, but will celebrate the new improved version of you and your blog. Isn't it wonderful how reading the old stuff allows you to see how much you've grown?

kate said...

it's freakishly fascinating that you came up w/ all those statistics on us readers and that i qualify for every one. . .except the jane austen thing. i have never read her. i used to think it was so un-hip that i hadn't, but now i feel so tragically unread!

bubandpie said...

I leave town for the day and come back to all this wonderfulness! You guys are way better than my imaginary audience (less critical and much more vocal).

Geek Daddy - I love that you're not the typical Mama-Blog reader: if HBM is the archetype, you are the Shadow, the antireader if you will. But the Jane Austen - not optional! Get thee to the library! (You too Kate - can you tell I'm an English teacher?)

Mama Tulip - Your comment was the first one I read this morning, after I woke up thinking about the whole "handbasket" thing, and how cool and clever it was, and wondering "Why can't I think up funny things like that?" It's so silly, really - wanting to do the stuff that other people do so well.

MOTR - As if to prove the very point of this post, after reading your comment I found myself deliberately working in "dictionary" words on the post I'm brewing up next - then I noticed what I was doing and rewrote the post in plain English.

Mother Bumper - I actually had to Google myself to find the old blurb; I redid the description and hit "publish" and then suddenly missed the old one!

Christina - I just love that there IS such thing as the Jane Eyre musical soundtrack.

Now I need to go off and obsess about the coolness/uncoolness of commenting on your own blog (especially at such epic length).

penelopeto said...

i have had a captive audience accompanying me ever since i can remember - first it was a black cat i papier-mached in jr. kindie, but he gave way to my first crush, randolph mantooth from 'emergency!'. ever since, there has been a running commentary for whichever imaginary bud wanted to listen. and now i have all these lovely blogmamas to spew to!

i will happily become part of your audience, and you have me just about pegged too, tho luckily, no ppd, and as i too am a yid, no church.
keep writin - i'll keep readin.

Nancy said...

You characterized me pretty well, too, except that work is more at the center of my life than I'd like it to be. But the rest? Yep.

It's interesting to go back and look at our earliest blog posts and see how much our voice changes in time. Probably some is due to awareness of (and interaction with) an audience, and probably some is just because our creativity starts to feel more "natural" if we hadn't been writing regularly before we started blogging. I know that was the case with me.

Anyway, let me echo what other readers have said -- I love your writing very much, it's articulate and funny and touching. Whatever changes in scope and focus you make to the blog are just fine with me -- just keep that amazing writing voice!!

Jaelithe said...

Wow! I'm not 30 yet, though. Also, I don't feel bad about not going to church. Bwa ha ha!